RCI ReportsPershing County Fire Plan

11.0 Rye Patch

11.1 Hazard and Risk Assessment

The community of Rye Patch is located in central Pershing County adjacent to Interstate 80 (see Figure 11-1). There approximately 49 homes in the area. The risk assessment resulted in classifying Rye Patch in the Moderate Hazard category (53 points). The highest risk factor for Rye Patch is its location on the western slope of the Humboldt Mountains. The community assessment summary sheet is provided at the end of this section.

11.1.1 Community Design

The interface condition surrounding the community of Rye Patch Lake is classified as intermixed. Structures are scattered throughout the wildland area with no clear line of demarcation between wildland fuels along roads and back property fences and structures. Most lot sizes are between one and ten acres in size.

  • Roads: Interstate 80, a paved, divided four-lane highway, is the major transportation route through the community of Rye Patch. State Route 401 connects the Rye Patch Reservoir area with Interstate 80 in the community. Old Highway 40 runs through the eastern portion of the community. All secondary roads through the community are paved or well graded and are at least 24 feet wide.
  • Signage: All streets have clearly visible signage. Addresses were easily visible from the road on approximately two-thirds of the homes. Clear and visible residential addresses are an important aid to firefighting personnel in locating homes during low visibility conditions that may occur during a wildland fire.
  • Utilities: Electric utilities are all above ground. Power line corridors have not been properly maintained and the vegetation in the power line easement could pose a wildfire hazard if power lines spark during windstorms.

11.1.2 Construction Materials

Most of the homes in the interface are built with combustible siding materials. Many of these homes have medium-density fiberboard (MDF) siding that will burn when exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time. The minimal fuel load adjacent to most of these homes reduces the hazard of this combustible siding.

All of the homes have fire resistant roof materials such as composition roofing or metal. Approximately one-half of the homes observed had unenclosed balconies, porches, decks or other architectural features that provide areas where sparks and embers can smolder and create drafts that rapidly spread fire if the home ignites.

11.1.3 Defensible Space

Most of the homes have landscaping that would meet the minimum requirement for defensible space to help protect the home from damage or loss during a wildfire.

11.1.4 Suppression Capabilities

Wildfire Protection Resources

Rye Patch is protected by the 12-member Rye Patch Volunteer Fire Department. Additional resources are available from Lovelock and the BLM office and the Nevada Division of Forestry conservation camp, both located in Winnemucca.

Table 11-1 lists the types of wildfire resources, cooperating partners and equipment available to Rye Patch in the event of reported wildland fire.

Table 11-1. Rye Patch Wildfire Resources, Cooperating Partners and Equipment Available
Response Time Type of Equipment Amount of Equipment Resource Location /
Cooperating Partner
10 - 30 minutes Type II Engine
Type VI Engine
Rye Patch VFD (Rye Patch)
30 minutes Brush Truck
Water Tender
Command Vehicle
Lovelock VFD (Lovelock)
Source: Harry Mosby, John Moe, and Kathy Moe, pers. comm.. Feb. 10, 2004; Dora Wren, email comm., May 19, 2004.

The initial response to a wildland fire by volunteer-staffed fire departments will vary depending on day of week and time of day that the fire is reported. Some volunteer fire department members may be unable to respond immediately to fire calls during normal working hours.

Water Sources and Infrastructure

Water availability for fire suppression in Rye Patch include:

  • Community wells
  • A 10,000 gallon water storage tank
  • Rye Patch Reservoir (helicopter dip site and drafting location)
  • Humboldt River (drafting location)

Fire Protection Personnel Qualifications

All volunteer firefighters are trained to the State Fire Marshal’s Entry-level Firefighter qualifications. In addition, some volunteers also are trained to State Fire Marshal Firefighter I and II qualifications, and State EMS, EMT and First Responder qualifications. The Rye Patch Lake VFD does not utilize the Red Card system for individual qualifications. A Red Card certification is part of a fire qualifications management system used by many state and all federal wildland fire management agencies that indicates an individual is qualified to fire wildland fires.

Work Load

The Rye Patch Volunteer Fire Department responded to 67 calls in 2003:

  • 50 emergency medical calls
  • 15 wildland/brush fire calls
  • 2 other calls

Financial Support

Financial support for the Rye Patch Volunteer Fire Department comes primarily from the Pershing County General Fund. The Fire Department also pursues grant funding when available. Pershing County has very limited financial resources. Property and sales tax rates are limited by Nevada Revised Statutes. Overlapping tax rates in Lovelock are currently at the property tax cap set by Statute. Additional countywide taxes cannot be raised without special consideration to the tax rate situation in Lovelock. Increases in funding from the County General Fund for fire suppression in areas such as Rye Patch can only occur if county tax revenues increase or there are reductions to other county services. In addition to General Fund monies, the community conducts periodic fundraisers to supplement their budget.

Community Preparedness

  • Pershing County has an active Local Emergency Planning Committee and has adopted an all-risk, multi-agency emergency plan. The plan is periodically updated and was last revised in 2003.

The Rye Patch Volunteer Fire Department does not review development plans.

11.1.5 Factors Affecting Fire Behavior

The Rye Patch interface area was observed to have medium vegetative fuel density. Fuels in the community consist primarily of shadscale, greasewood, bud sage, basin big sagebrush, and cheatgrass. Some parcels that have been cleared but not developed have knapweed growing on them. Fuel loading was estimated to be approximately one to two tons per acre. The north end of the community has experienced a previous wildfire and has a higher dominance of cheatgrass.

Predominant winds are downslope from the south/southwest in the later afternoon. Slopes in the area vary from 10 to 20 percent with an east aspect. There are narrow mountain canyons directly west of the community.

11.1.6 Fire Behavior Worst-Case Scenario

The worst-case scenario for the community of Rye Patch would begin with a lightning strike on the west or southwest edge of the community. High winds could drive the fire into the community. Dry, light fuel could lead to rapid advancement of the fire. The local fire department has limited capabilities and equipment to respond to a fast moving wildland fire.

11.1.7 Risk Assessment

The ignition risk in Rye Patch is determined to be high, primarily due to lightning activity in the area. The risk of structures igniting is low, however, due to the sparse fuel in and around the community and the non-combustible construction of most of the homes.

The following factors pose the greatest hazard for ignition sources that could start a wildland fire:

  • Lightning
  • Railroad
  • Interstate 80 Corridor
  • Powerline Corridors
  • Debris Burning
  • Children with Matches
  • Fireworks

11.2 Risk and Hazard Reduction Recommendations, Roles, and Responsibilities

The Rye Patch Risk Reduction Recommendations focus primarily on defensible space and homeowner responsibilities. Other recommendations pertain to aspects of community coordination and agency responsibilities that will be key elements in enhancing the fire safe capabilities of the Rye Patch community. The recommendations are detailed below and summarized in Table 11.2.

11.2.1 Defensible Space Treatments

Throughout the community there are areas that have been disturbed by previous wildfires or property development. The fuels in these areas are primarily annual grasses and noxious weeds. Control and management of these fuels is important to establishing and maintaining good defensible space. General guidelines for improving defensible space around residences and other structures in the community are described below.

Property Owner Responsibilities

  • Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the guidelines in Appendix D. This area should be kept:
    • Lean: There are only small amounts of flammable vegetation,
    • Clean: There is no accumulation of dead vegetation or other flammable debris,
    • Green: Existing plants are healthy and green during the fire season.
  • Maintain this defensible space as needed to keep the space lean, clean, and green.
  • Where cheatgrass has become dominant within the defensible space area it should be mowed prior to seed set, or an application of a pre-emergent herbicide can be used. Mowing may need to be repeated the following year to ensure that the seed bank of unwanted grasses has been depleted. Refer to Appendix I for approved seed mixes and planting guidelines than can be used in conjunction with removal of this annual grass.

11.2.2 Fuel Reduction Treatments

Reduction of fuels in strategic areas or replacement of those fuels with less flammable fuels will help protect structures and resources. Following the recommendations listed below will provide added protection to structures in the community and allow safe routes for fire suppression equipment in the event of a wildland fire.

Pershing County Responsibilities

  • Mow vegetation and maintain at a maximum height of four inches in a strip measuring a minimum of 20 feet wide from the edge of all public roads.

Utility Company Responsibilities

  • Reduce (mow and remove) vegetation and maintain clear of vegetation an area measuring 15 feet from all utility poles.

11.2.3 Agency Recommendations

The following recommendations to the Rye Patch Volunteer Fire Department aim to improve the wildland firefighting capabilities.

Rye Patch Volunteer Fire Department Responsibilities

  • Upgrade the existing Type II fire engines and obtain a Type III engine. The Department should investigate grants and federal and state excess property programs to look for equipment available for purchase at a reduced cost.
  • Continue basic wildland firefighting training.
  • Upgrade personal protection equipment for wildland firefighting. Obtain hard hats, goggles, gloves, fire shelters with cases and Nomex clothing to sufficiently upgrade personal protection equipment.
  • Obtain wildland firefighting equipment such as pulaskis, shovels, McLeods, and a 1-inch single jack cotton hose with nozzles.

11.2.4 Community Coordination

Coordination among local, state and federal fire suppression agencies is important in the day-to-day fire prevention activities and becomes critical in the event of a wildland fire. During a fire event, firefighters from outside the local community and even from outside the state may end up fighting fire in unfamiliar areas. Rye Patch is a small community with limited fire suppression resources and will most likely be dependent on outside agency assistance in the event of a catastrophic wildland fire. Following is a recommendation that should be implemented in Rye Patch related to Community Coordination.

Property Owner Responsibilities

  • Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council. The Nevada Fire Safe Council proposes to work on solutions to reduce the loss of lives and property due to wildfire in Nevada’s communities. Through the establishment of a local Chapter, communities will become a part of a large information-sharing network that receives notifications of programs and funding opportunities for fire mitigation projects like those listed in this report. The Nevada Fire Safe Council will solicit and manage grants and contracts on the Chapter’s behalf through its non-profit status. The Nevada Fire Safe Council will provide assistance and support to communities to complete fire safe plans, set priorities, educate and train community members and promote success stories of its members. To form a local Chapter or for more information, contact the Nevada Fire Safe Council, PO Box 2724, Carson City, NV 89702, telephone (775) 884-4455.
  • Treat areas to control the invasion of Russian knapweed, a noxious weed, in disturbed or old burn areas. Refer to Appendix H- Fact Sheet on Russian knapweed.

Pershing County Responsibilities

  • Allow burning only under a permit process or on designated community burn days. See Appendix G for a sample burn permit.

11.2.5 Public Education

Public education regarding how to become more fire safe is critical in communities that have limited fire suppression resources such as Rye Patch.

Rye Patch Volunteer Fire Department Responsibilities

  • Organize an annual Community Fire Awareness event.
  • Distribute copies of the publication “Living with Fire” to all property owners. This publication is free of charge. Copies can be requested from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, (775) 784-4848.

11.3 Summary of Recommendations

Table 11-2. Priority Recommendations to reduce wildfire risks in the Rye Patch Area
recommendation Description
Property Owners Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the guidelines in Appendix F.
Maintain defensible space.
Remove cheatgrass in defensible space.
Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Treat areas to control the invasion of the noxious weed, Russian knapweed, in disturbed or old burn areas. Refer to Appendix H - Fact Sheet on Russian knapweed.
Utility Company Reduce (mow and remove) vegetation to maintain a minimum cleared distance of 15 feet from all power lines.
Rye Patch VFD Upgrade existing Type II fire engines and obtain a Type III engine.
Continue basic firefighter training, both structures and wildland fires.
Upgrade personal protection equipment to include wildland fire protection equipment.
Acquire wildland firefighting hand tools.
Distribute copies of the “Living with Fire” publication to all property owners.
Organize annual Community Fire Awareness event.
Pershing County Mow vegetation to maintain a minimum distance of 20 feet from the edge of all public roads.
Allow burning only under a permit process or on designated community burn days.

Table 11-3

Rye Patch Wildfire Risk/Hazard Assessment Summary Sheet

Figure 11-1

Suppression Resources and Fire History for the Community of Rye Patch

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